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Demon Pedals - Monstrously Divine Drive and Fuzz Pedals from Northwest Bavaria

Big Muff Style FuzzBoostBoost and OverdriveDemon PedalsDistortionDriveDual-DriveDumble Style OverdriveEffects Pedal MakersFuzzFuzz Face Style FuzzGermanium FuzzKlone and Transparent OverdriveMulti-DriveOverdriveSilicon Fuzz+-
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I had encountered Demon Pedals several times in passing - I have certainly been aware of them for a number of years now but am still not sure where I first clocked them, yet they were one of the first brands that came to mind when I did my ’German Pedal Builders’ feature - while back then I had not wholly been won over - I needed some additional spark to get fully onboard. Turns out that spark was their newest pedal - the Kondo Shifuku D-Style Overdrive - which captivated me on pretty much first encounter. I’m a huge fan of fuzz-edged / fuzz-drive pedals, or drives with a rich fuzz-like character - and that was always the aspect of the Dumble ODS amp which appealed to me the most. On my ’Dumble’ pedal quest I started with the Mad Professor Simble, then Wampler Euphoria and Bearfoot FX Model Hs - I have kept all those for occasional rotation - they all get me well within the ballpark of what I was looking for - while the Kondo Shifuku produces the exact tone and timbre I was seeking - so that went straight into my pedal-chain and looks as likely a permanent fixture there as I’ve ever seen.

 

Once I had the Kondo, I started taking more of an active interest in the full Demon Pedals Range and when the notification came through for the arrival of the deep metallic red Devil’s Heart edition of the Parvati Fuzz I fairly pounced on it. I’ve often said that the design of a pedal is very much a significant factor in its appeal - and while a great sounding ugly looking pedal will always find some fans, they will never be as numerous as for a pedal whose looks perfectly match its pervasive high quality. The earlier versions of the Parvati pedals had a black outline graphic - which looked slightly overly busy and rather indistinct against the enclosure background. However by introducing a white infill, and changing the knobs to white - this pedal’s appeal has gone up 10-fold for me. The pedal’s provenance and output were never in doubt, but the then look of the pedal really did not do it full service.

 

The Parvati Fuzz is actually Demon Pedals’ first proper official pedal circuit which started its life off as the ’Mattrix’ as pictured below - a collaboration with German psychedelic rock band ’My Sleeping Karma’, and in particular bassist Matte Vandeven after whom the Mattrix was in part named. The Mattrix, now Parvati is a heavily modified Green Russian Big Muff style circuit with controls for Mids, Tone, Karma (Fuzz/Sustain), and Sleep (Volume) alongside secondary and tertiary Germanium and Silicon clipping stages - for ultimate tone-shaping. I feel that there are many a great Big Muff pedals out there (I should know - I have circa 30 Muff-style fuzzes) but very few cover as much ground as the Parvati does - as you can see below in Alberto Barrero’s fantastic demo video.

First Official Pedal - the Mattrix Fuzz, forerunner to the Parvati

First Official Pedal - the Mattrix Fuzz, forerunner to the Parvati

I believe that the band 'My Sleeping Karma' is still very much a significant influence on Demon Pedals as they share several visual cues and a very Indian-centric divine mythology motif focused on deities and demons and largely Hindi styled text. The first thing you notice about Demon Pedals when you get them is how well made they are - every clunk/click whether switch or input/output jack has a very reassuring precision feel to it as do the various knob potentiometers. All pedal aficionados will know when a pedal is just right - you get that beautiful smooth medium resistance feel to everything - which just shouts superior quality. Just flicking switches and gently swooshing knobs gives you somehow a heightened appreciations for these Ultimate Drive Machines!

 

I will note that I've seen some critiques of said pedals - citing too many options / option paralysis etc. - and while these are probably more likely to be fully appreciated by proper pedal tweakers such as myself - great tones are nevertheless very easy to find and easily dialled in. I always prefer pedals with a greater inherent range of versatility - where they become instruments of themselves rather than just simple additive tone accessories. And while the Kondo Shifuku and Parvati are more switchy/tweaky, the other two pedals featured above are far more simple in use. Top left is the Ganapati Drive + Boost - which is actually a combination of Demon's best selling Ganesha Dynamic Drive - your standard 3-knob versatile overdrive - Drive (Karma), Sleep (Volume) and Tone - which also benefits from a handy secondary clipping stage here with softer FET transistor and more aggressive Silicon+Germanium Diode options. Then we have the right-hand Vahana Boost side - Demon's smooth single-knob gain booster which produces a very pleasant drive tone itself when cranked, and a lovely singing distortion when combined with the Ganesha side.

 

Finally, the top-right pictured pedal is the very elegant Fuzz-Face style Kijo Germanium Fuzz with simple Noizu (Volume) and Fazu (Fuzz/Sustain) knobs and a 2-way Input Capacitor selector which gives you more highs or lows in the appropriate direction - so a sort of 'Tone' switch as such. I'm a huge fan of Germanium Fuzzes and if you get the transistors properly paired off/accurately matched - these things sound beautifully dynamic and alive. I determined that following my marvellous experiences with the Kondo Shifuku and Parvati, that I should add the Ganapati and Kijo also to my collection - and the 4 pictured above are exactly the versions I have alongside a 3D printed figure of the Demon Pedals figurehead mascot - which I feel should really have a name by now - suggestions?

 

When asked to place Demon Pedals among its peers - I feel that it has a very unique identity, and no one else really does as refined graphics as are in evidence here. The closest match in profile I could think of is Beetronics FX - both companies are similar in size / range and are proper detail- and design-oriented hand-made boutique pedal builders. Each has highly refined standard pedals - with several fantastic custom editions which improve on the already high standard. There are also elements of Analog.Man and Spaceman Effects at work here - but the aesthetics, colour choices and sound-design are pretty unique to Demon - and that particular combination is the key reason why I've invested so much into this range.


Pete & Matthias at Demon Pedals HQ

Pete & Matthias at Demon Pedals HQ

Demon Pedals is run by two Music-obsessed friends - Peter Knechtel and Matthias Bauer (pictured respectively above) who are currently based in Mainaschaff - a smallish community bordering the town of Asschaffenburg in nortwest Bavaria. Each of the founders has his own band as such - Matthias plays mostly rhythm guitar for punk outfit Tigercage - you can check out their new eponymous EP on Spotify; while Pete mainly plays lead in stoner rock group Delicious Demons - who are currently working on new material. They obviously came together through a shared passion for music - and started making pedals to service their own needs initially before expanding to friends and acquaintances and eventually getting involved with Matte and My Sleeping Karma which was the catalyst for the official formation of Demon Pedals as such.

 

In the workshop Pete is responsible for the exteriors as such or enclosures - drilling, powder coating, printing and engraving - while Matthias as the main sound engineer takes care of the internals and the soldering! Both principals have day jobs related to their core skills - they're obviously a great team when they combine together for Demon Pedals. They are so busy with their many mostly musical activities that they rarely have time to acclimatise themselves to what else is happening out there - but they do confess and admiration for fellow peers KMA Audio Machines and Red Sun FX (for whom they also collaborate with on occasion) as well as American brands Analog.Man, EarthQuaker Devices and Malekko Heavy Industries.

 

As much here is done emanating from a very specific need or requirement - it looks like the next pedal to come through these works will be some sort of Tremolo. Pete and Matthias will need to settle on exactly what feature set to go with, and while Matthias being a punk is obviously more minimalist, Pete tends more towards the maximalist side of things - as is born out by the respective sizes of their pedalboards!


Matthias's Demon Amps Head

Matthias's Demon Amps Head

Before I give a brief overview of the current range in alphabetical order - I felt it opportune to show off another pristine Demon Pedals production - Matt's one-off Soldano SLO-100 style Demon Amps Head as pictured above. Note that Demon Pedals are the very definition of boutique builders and only produce pedals in very small batches - which you are best off acquiring direct from their [website], although I ended up acquiring my Kondo Shifuku from Effect-boutique.de in the end as units were initially in very short supply!:


Ganapati Dynamic Drive + Boost - €249 or €274 for limited editions (City Lights edition picture above top-left, w/ white knobs!)

Just a beautifully even-toned dynamic drive - as brilliantly demo'd by Alberto Barrero above - this is about as simple a drive + boost pedal as you could have - but has a fabulous range of tones within it through just those 4 dials - Tone, Sleep (Volume), Karma (Drive) and Boost of course. If you want to go more towards the transparent side of things you select the FET clipping option - for elegant smooth tones, while the SI/GE option ramps up the raunch. Part of me always wants a 3-band EQ, but when a pedal is as well tuned as this you really don't need it. Just an all-round great sounding drive. As mentioned in the intro this is an exact combination of the individual Ganesha Drive and Vahana Boost pedals - also featured here below.


Ganesha Dynamic Drive - €199 or €224 for limited editions

This is obviously the same as the Ganapati - minus the boost element or Vahana. A beautifully balanced dynamic overdrive with plenty of range in its classic 3-knob configuration and excellent articulation alongside FET and SI/GE clipping options.


Kijo Germanium Fuzz - €189 (stock version as pictured above)

A classic Germanium Fuzz Face style circuit with 2-way Input Capacitor selector for tone-tweaking - otherwise really just as streamlined and simple as a fuzz can be. I personally happen to love these sorts of fuzzes, and this is a stellar example of this type.


Kondo Shifuku D-Style Drive - €279 or €299 for limited editions (stock version pictured above)

It was Alberto Barrero's genius demo of this pedal which got me instantly interested - I immediately recognised the timbre/texture and tone I had been seeking for so long. I have developed a knack over the years for discerning tone and texture through these sorts of demos - occasionally some further triangulation is required - but if you know the core defaults for clean tone-building you get to extrapolate these things relatively easily in most instances. In any case this is my Dumble-style pedal of choice - and had been rooted to my pedal-chain since I acquired it. The switches are mostly self-evident from those with even a passing knowledge of Dumble amps - and there is a sufficiently significant change in tonality / texture upon switching each of those toggles - so you very quickly get a handle on that the toggles do - and the dials also could not be simpler - they all pretty much do what they say - with the Accent being a sort of dynamics/sizzle control. This is just a fabulous pedal - and I'm delighted that I was able to find my own perfect tone within it so easily - all switches down, Drive on around 10 o'c and the other dials just slightly either side of 12 o'c - adjusted to mood/taste. I feel that this is easily the most capable and versatile D-Style pedal within this enclosure format - and it will given even the much bigger Van Weelden Royal Overdrive and Custom Tones Ethos PreAmp some very stiff competition as a pure tone machine. This is one of the Demon pedals I actually prefer in its stock edition - obviously the labels are clearer on the white-facia colourful custom editions, but to my mind the mother-of-pearl style facia looks more elegant on the original!


Parvati Green Russian Style Fuzz - €209 or €229 for limited editions (Devil's Heart edition pictured above)

This is a fantastically versatile modified Green Russian Muff style circuit with some really clever clipping options which yield a huge variety of tones from Boost, through Overdrive to proper Muff-style distortion or more accurately 'fuzzstortion'. I believe this is in the main a Silicon based transistor circuit with no clipping when switches are in the middle position. Up on the left switch is Germanium Diode clipping, down is Silicon, while on the right-hand switch (second/third gain stage) - up is the 'OM' mode as such or a sort of full bias mode, while down is Silicon again. The default Green Muff style tone is achieved with both switches in down / Silicon modes. For this pedal - the introduction of the white infill on the main graphic and white knobs - has totally transformed its appeal - in its former stock version per the above again superb demo - the graphics and legends look fussy and indistinct - while the addition of white totally cleans and sharpens things up!


Vahana One Knob Smooth Mini Boost - €135

A really elegant mini tone enhancer which functions as a very pleasant overdrive in the higher range of the one dial. This circuit is of course included as the right-hand side of the above referenced Ganapati Drive + Boost pedal. This pedal is great as an always-on boost too, and would offer fantastic competition to my other two favourite mini boosts - the Xotic EP Booster and TC Electronic Spark Mini.


Final Thoughts

Demon Pedals is the very epitome of a quality boutique pedal builder - small but perfectly formed with a really decent tightly packed proposition. There are so many pedal builders around that it takes some little spark of brilliance to stand out and be relevant - and often, as with cooking it's about all the right ingredients coming together at the right time.

 

You often need a 'gateway pedal' into the range - to truly appreciate what is on offer, and how good it really is in context and comparison to everything else. For me there were two steps here - the brilliance of the Kondo Shifuku and the right tweaks to the core design to appeal to my refined sense of aesthetics.

 

These pedals are obviously a relatively pricey proposition - but again you really get what you pay for here, and even though I'm not at all looking for exclusivity you get that too - as there are relatively very few of these pedals out there in the world. I guess it's up to Matt and Pete really as to how they want to play this - and as this is in part hobby-based - it will only likely continue as long as the work remains rewarding and enjoyable.

 

These are some of the very finest pedals in my collection - and I encourage others to seek them out too. I don't lightly invest in a full range - but on this occasion I feel each of those 4 pedals above is worthy and a leading or principal contender within its own category.

 

As mentioned above - the Ganesha is currently the most sold pedal mentioned here and understandably so - while each of the above really merits its own consideration / inclusion. I look forward to witnessing and reporting on what innovations Matthias and Pete have coming down the line. I know that they are forever investing in better print and production technology and I expect to see some very creative uses of those in the not too distant future.

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Stefan Karlsson
Stefan Karlsson
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